Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

info@positivelifechanges.ca
778-558-8207

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

communication tips

resolve conflict with marriage counselling in Burnaby /North VancouverAre you familiar with the frustrating and discouraging feeling of getting stuck in a negative cycle or downward spiral together?

After a while, you don’t know how to shift the pattern to recreate positive energy between each other.

Sometimes you have an internal narrative which sounds something like this: ”If only my spouse would do X then I could / would do Y.” Both of you are waiting for the other to change and most likely have a score card pattern. As you point the finger at each other, your levels of willingness go down as defensiveness and frustration goes up.

Let’s use this metaphor:
Imagine your doctor told you that you needed fresh air and exercise to improve your health. Time Love coaching and relationship therapy Burnaby / Vancouverpasses and you’re not walking or jogging because of the weather. Every time you look outside you think, if only it would stop raining, then I could go for a walk. If it rains for a long time, you have to start figuring out how you can get moving outdoors despite the rain, otherwise you never improve your health.

Once you change your expectation around the weather conditions, you can start to enjoy the benefits of exercise. By the time the rain gives way to sunshine, your health has improved and you can enjoy being outdoors even more.

In my marriage counselling and relationship coaching work, I offer couples the following useful exercise to help identify a starting point for change.

The magic wand exercise aims to help you shift your thoughts from “If only…” to embodying the change you want to see in your relationship.

Here is how it works:recapture the magic with Relationship Coaching and EFT Therapy Burnaby

Write down your answer to the following two questions on a piece of paper:
1) Imagine you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about your partner that would improve your experience of the relationship, what would that be?
2) Imagine with that same magic wand you could change one thing about yourself that would improve your marriage – what would you change?

Once you’ve written down your “magical changes”, swap papers. Now you get to read what would make a big difference for your partner and what they consider they could do to contribute to a positive change in the relationship.
When you approach change from the perspective of being the change you want to experience, three powerful things happen:

  1. You stop judging your partner
  2. You shift from complaining about the other person to reflecting how you are co-creating or contributing to the current situation
  3. You stop feeling powerless and start creating movement in the only area of the relationship that you have control over, namely yourself.

Can you imagine how your willingness to connect with each other is going to increase when you don’t feel criticized all the time? And then you both start noticing how the other person is doing some things differently? Things that make you feel good or please you? Actions or behaviours that indicate to you that your partner is assuming responsibility for how they contribute to conflict and disappointments?

Here is a potential scenario: You have swapped papers and read the following. “If I had a magic wand I would make my partner be a more tidy a person. And I would make myself be more appreciative of the things that my partner does do.”
“If I had a magic wand I would make my partner of more patient and have them stop interrupting me when I talk. And I would be less negative and grumpy in the morning’s.”

Love Coaching and premarital counselling BurnabyOf course you don’t have to limit the things you believe you could change in how you show up in your marriage to one item 🙂 That being said, you need to start somewhere. And as you rekindle good will and remember that you are not each other’s enemy the momentum of an upward spiral creates more willingness and desire to be loving and kind with each other…. and before you know it you can focus on actively nurturing the magic of the love you share and co-creating your dream relationship.

One of the most common “complaints” I hear from couples when they make an appointment for couple’s counselling or relationship therapy is how fed up they are  with all the negativity between them.

stop blaming with couples counselling in Burnaby and North VancouverAre you tired of bickering all the time? Are you a nag?

Does it feel like conflict erupts out of nowhere… one minute things seem to be fine and the next minute you’re arguing? Would you agree that those types of arguments rarely lead to resolving the real underlying issue?  Instead you’re both most likely walking away feeling frustrated, annoyed or disappointed?

I’m going to invite you to take a moment and think back over your last few conflicts.

Do your arguments often start with one of you complaining, blaming or criticizing?

In other words, did one of you start pointing a finger and talking about something you didn’t like the other person was doing?

If that is  indeed the case, most likely you ended up arguing about who was right or wrong, one of you got defensive or started explaining and you got stuck  in that place where both of you want to be right.

How can you get out of this repetitive cycle? Grab a cushion and work with the three fingers!

Let me explain:)

Often when you get irritated you step into “trigger – reaction” mode. You point a finger at your Relationship Therapy North Vancouver can help you communicate betterpartner and start telling them what is wrong with them or what you don’t like about them and their actions.

But every time you point a finger at someone – three fingers are pointing back to you. 

I know that it can be really hard sometimes to bring our attention back to ourselves. It is very easy and tempting to get stuck in the energy of: “If you didn’t always ‘fill in the blank’ – then I wouldn’t have to feel this way.”

But remember, this is YOUR trigger and these are YOUR feelings that have developed from the thoughts that you are choosing and the story that you are creating.

Wayne Dyer used the metaphor of the orange to paint a picture of this dynamic. When someone squeezes an orange, juice will flow out of the orange. No matter who or what squeezes the orange – the juice is always orange juice. It doesn’t change flavour or contain pieces of the person who is doing the squeezing.

Relationship counselling Burnaby can help you increase your ability for reflection and accountabilityIn order to reduce conflict and increase connection you need to be able to step out of reactive mode into reflective mode. This is where the “cushion” comes in. Connecting with yourself and identifying what is going on for you requires calming down just like you would  if you sat on a cushion to meditate.

Some tips:

Calming down your body will help calm down the mind. Bring your awareness to your belly and take 3 or 4 breaths into the belly. (This activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which calms the body.)

Asking yourself the following questions can help you identify your trigger and your part in the conflict:

  • What is familiar about this conflict? How does this remind me of my childhood or growing up years?
    Sometimes you will find that the trigger is part of an old  “theme” such as for example “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough,” or “I do so much to make others happy but it never really gets appreciated,”  or “Nobody wants me.”
  • What story have I created in my head – what filter have I used to interpret what has happened?

    Two predominant filters that create conflict are judgment about the other person, or judging yourself, i.e. you either assign a value to the other person because they’re not doing what you would do in a given situation or you put yourself down because you believe that you are the cause of the conflict.

You might choose to write down your insights so you can mull them over and potentially share them with your partner.

Deepen your intimate connection and rekindle appreciation with Marriage TherapyAs you both take increased ownership for your part of the conflict and share your triggers with each other you will  remember that this person is not “the enemy” but rather the love of your life. Building a culture of accountability will deepen your intimate connection and will allow you to make a “repair attempt” more easily. 

If you find that you can’t calm yourself down easily, that you both experience difficulty listening to each other or you have the tendency to take things personally you might consider connecting with an experienced marriage counsellor or relationship therapist like myself who can help you with boundaries and communication tools.

Relationship counselling and addiction recovery can help you rebuild your marriageIt doesn’t matter whether you love someone who is struggling with Addiction or if you are an Addict, part of the emotional roller coaster of living with Addiction is the impact it has on your self-esteem. As an Addictions Counsellor and Marriage therapist I often help couples navigate the journey of recovery from co-depency and other addiction to rebuilding trust and self-esteem.

Can you relate to Hank and Renée?

When Hank and Renée came to see me for Relationship Therapy and Addiction counselling, a major issue in their relationship was lack of trust  caused by broken promises.  Promises made by  Hank to stop with his cocaine addiction.  Renée was a classic loved one who had stuck by her husband during 4 years of cocaine addiction feeling helpless, powerless, confused, hurt and overwhelmed. In the beginning she tried to fix things, trying to  control his addiction by trying to manage his moods and environment.  She pleaded and cajoled; she issued ultimatums that she never followed through on, and she believed Hank when he promised yet again that this was the last time, that he was truly quitting, that he was going to be sober from now on.

The addiction roller coaster had been hard on both of them. Renée felt unloved and hopeless and Hank felt like a loser. Why did he keep hurting this woman who loved him. Why was he destroying his own life? Renée felt like she was walking on eggshells. She wanted to be hopeful and supportive but she had heard these promises so many times before. Now Hank was accusing her of being anxious and controlling. Renée felt like she had to choose between expressing how she felt or suppressing her feelings.

For both the Addict and the Loved One, part of the journey of recovery and healing is to work on self-esteem.

As an Addict it’s important to understand that:

  • You are not a bad  or a loser  because you have become to rely on a substance or a behaviour to help you cope with emotional stress or overwhelm in your life
  • You are still loveable even if you have lied and/ or betrayed others because you were driven by your addiction
  • Even though you may feel shame and regrets, you still deserve to be loved and to walk in the world holding your head high

As a Loved One it is important to understand that:

  • You are not the cause, nor will you ever be “the cure” for an Addiction
  • You are not bad and you haven’t done anything wrong
  • You are not too much and your feelings of anxiety, discouragement or frustration are all legitimate – feelings are not rational and you are allowed to feel your feelings
  • Your loved one’s relapses are not about you and have nothing to do with you not being lovable
  • Saying No and setting boundaries, practicing self-care and not colluding does not make you selfish nor are you ruining your loved one’s life

Moving forward for both of you it is important to remember:Repair trust and self-esteem with Burnaby couples counselling

You deserve to love yourself because you are doing the best you can. If you are on the road of recovery (from your Addiction or your co-dependent behavior) you are making healthier choices. You are learning to cope with your life differently. No, you can’t turn back the clock and undo pain you may have caused. But moving forward you can make amends to the people you may  have hurt. You can practice accountability to yourself and your sobriety and to those you love by showing up every day from a place of intention and willingness.

Continuing an old behaviour is a choice. You can make more loving choices. You can reach out and call your sponsor, therapist, support person, crisis line, priest etc.  before you choose to use. You can practice mindfulness and a continuous inventory of self so you can prevent relapse.

You can practice forgiveness. As you lovingly forgive yourself for having abandoned yourself and those you love you learn to move on. The past is already over. You cannot change it. But you can look for the good in your life and in this moment. You can love yourself just the way you are from a place of humbleness and compassion.

You can learn to become your own best friend and lover. Treat and speak to yourself the way you would to someone who is infinitely precious to yourself.

Sex and intimacy counselling can help you communicate differently in the bedroomImagine what it would feel like to do the dishes in the dark. You would sort of know what you’re doing because  you’re familiar with the layout of your kitchen sink  and the dish soap. But you probably wouldn’t be feeling very confident about the results.  If your goal was to have  satisfyingly clean dishes,  you most likely would be double checking with your  fingers trying to identify if you missed spots.  You might not be as relaxed as you normally are when you’re doing the dishes.  If you were hoping to please your spouse with clean dishes you might experience  some anxiety and a certain level of uncertainty regarding your ability of being a good dishwasher until you were able to see the results once under the light.

Transferring this metaphoric scenario  to the bedroom,

how confident do you feel as a lover?
Are you willing and able to ask for or give feedback?

As a relationship therapist who specializes in sex therapy and intimacy counselling, I often point out to couples that many of their challenges in the bedroom  stem from communication issues rather than physiological difficulties.

About giving feedback:

  • Sometimes internalized cultural, religious or family of origin belief systems can make it difficult to ask for what you want sexually.
  • Another common obstacle is the fear of hurting your lover’s feelings.
  • You might also be challenged by the “mind reading” myth where you think your partner should either figure it out on his or her own because otherwise you are making it “too easy” or it isn’t “mysterious” enough.
  • Finally, you may feel that you are being “difficult” and that you want “too much.” You may feel intimidated by the idea of asking exactly for what you want. Or perhaps you already shared that you wanted a lighter or firmer touch more than once and it seems easier to just put up with what is happening.

There are no benefits to letting your partner “go blind” and not give feedback as to what feels good and what doesn’t feel so great. 

Here are some supporting arguments to give feedback:

  • Assume your partner wants to pleasure you and is interested in your pleasure
  • You may also assume that your visible or audible experience of pleasure is a turn on for your partner
  • If something doesn’t feel very good you are most likely going to tense up and “close” your body or split off mentally rather than being open and present, and this will impact not only your level of enjoyment but your level of connection
  • You are responsible for your body and for your pleasure and potentially finding out what exactly works for you and what doesn’t

Think about it for a moment – when you go to a coffee shop you most likely have no problem asking for exactly what you want – extra hot, skinny, no sugar, foam on top and if you don’t get one of these requests you let the barista know.

About receiving feedback:

If you struggle receiving feedback from your lover you need to check your ego at the door. Touching your lover’s body has to feel good to her or him. It is not about you and what you think would feel good. Instead it is  about what is actually enjoyable for the receiver. For men it can often feel frustrating or confusing because what “worked well” the last time doesn’t seem to be “right” this time. Don’t take it personally. Hormonal changes during the monthly cycle can impact the sensitivity of nipples or other areas of the body.

Actively experiment with giving and receiving feedback and explore together what is easy and what is less comfortable for you.

Schedule a love play session with the only purpose of exploring sensual touch.Burnaby Sex Therapy and Intimacy counselling can help get your marriage back on track

Take 15 or 20 min each to give or receive touch and to give and receive feedback. During this exercise avoid the “Bermuda triangle” – i.e. avoid the nipple and groin area. Take performance or the outcome completely off the table and simply focus on learning about all the other areas of each other bodies that respond to sensual touch.

Couples who have tried this often report new insights, new sensations and some surprising discoveries. What will yours be?

 

Have you felt hurt, disappointed, under appreciated or rejected in response to something your spouse said or did or didn’t do? And have you then gone ahead and adjusted your own behaviour based on that experience?

Take the example of Quinn and Lara:

Lara used to cook dinner for Quinn but often he would come home late and her lovingly prepared meal would be cold or overcooked. She interpreted is lateness as a lack of appreciation and acknowledgment that she was taking time to cook. Her cooking was an act of love and caring. Quinn seeming lack of appreciation made her feel hurt and disappointed. So she stopped cooking and made herself a sandwich instead. When Quinn would come home, she would be busy with her iPad and wouldn’t make a special effort to get up and greet him with enthusiasm.
Quinn interpreted her lack of cooking and enthusiasm as a lack of caring and now felt hurt. So he stopped bringing her coffee to bed in the morning the way he used to.
Slowly they both kept adjusting their behaviours and acts of love and kindness in response to their hurt feelings. Their sense of disconnection grew in proportion with their feelings of rejections and disappointment. Soon they stopped having sex or struggled wanting to initiate intimacy.

Can you relate to the pattern Quinn and Lara have fallen into?

Marriage counseling Burnaby helps you repair love and emotional connectionSometimes when couples come to see me for Burnaby relationship therapy or marriage counselling they have accumulated a list of slights, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They have internalized their interpretations and conclusions which in turn are now impacting their behavior and their interactions.

Do you have such a list? Have you gotten stuck in scorekeeping? Is your willingness to be kind and loving with each other compromised by the discussion of who disappointed the other one first?

These discussions are as fruitless and unproductive as trying to figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. In the end, does it really matter?
Is it really your partner’s fault? Or have you co-created the situation by not sharing your feelings and your interpretations? Did you not also make a choice when you decided that your partner’s behaviour indicated a lack of love and caring for you?

If you find that you regularly assume the worst and tend to forget that this person you’re choosing to spend your life with loves you, I encourage you to sit down together and discuss where this lack of emotional safety and trust comes from.

When did you stop trusting that your spouse only has your best interest at heart? What behaviours make you feel inadequate, criticized or judged?

In order to rebuild love and trust it is essential that you respond with love. Remember that you have a choice when you interpret your partner’s behaviour. You also have a choice how you’re going to respond. Are you going to close your heart and retaliate with a lack of willingness or can you set aside your ego and respond with love?

What would it be like if you could remember that complaining, criticizing and grumpiness tend to be Couples counselling New Westminster helps you repair broken trustan expression of not feeling loved? When your partner seems to express judgment or criticism it is not a statement about you being bad, inadequate other something being wrong with you. It is a statement about your lover’s lack of happiness, joy and inner contentment.

Ask yourself, what do you need to let go of scorekeeping? You might identify that you need to recover from codependency. You might need to be more authentic. Perhaps you need to be more clear and direct. Maybe you need to be more attentive to getting your needs met and honouring your own truth.
Sometimes sitting down with a counsellor can help you identify old patterns that no longer serve you and develop some new responses that honour your inner truth and contribute to you feeling happy, confident and empowered.

Remember you can choose if you are going to respond with love to grow the love you share or you can withdraw from your “love bank” by getting caught up in the downward spiral of scorekeeping.

Do you worry about your loved ones  being disappointed, or feeling bad in some shape or form?

Do try to save your children from feeling/experiencing pain and disappointment in life?

Burnaby Relationship Therapy for recovery from codependency addictionDo you work hard to manage your loved one’s feelings so he or she doesn’t 

  • get sick,
  • relapse,
  • become depressed again,
  • get triggered into some other painful place?
  • Are you the super attentive and kind friend always willing to come to the rescue?

Are you the friendly neighbor who goes out of their way to be helpful?

If you are nodding your head and saying “Yes, I am.  Yes I do all these things and more.”, it sounds like you value being a “good” human being and like to contribute to the well being of others.

Just between you and I, at the end of the day, do you sometimes feel a little disappointed? Do you feel like you put a lot of effort into making other people feel good but somehow they don’t seem to return the favor in equal measure?

Do you sometimes feel a little hurt because all your efforts and the energy that goes into worrying and making sure that others are okay goes almost unnoticed?

Do you sometimes feel a little un-  or under-appreciated?

Have you ever promised yourself that you’re going to stop being so nice? That you’re going to put yourself first? But then, when you try to make these changes in your life, and you actually do try to put yourself first you get stuck?

If you feel anxious or unsettled when  people around you are unhappy or frustrated then changing your behavior may be easier said than done.

In fact you may feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place because when you see people you love experience disappointment or pain, it’s almost as if their pain is your pain.

Often individuals who worry a lot about how others feel, also prefer to avoid conflict if at all possible. Of course the potential Codependency counselling and addiction recovery with Burnaby couples counsellingof conflict increases as “happiness” around you decreases.

In order for you to get to a place of more ease inside yourself and still maintain your values of being a caring person you need to unlearn or shift an erroneous belief that you most likely learned when you were growing up.

You need to let go of the idea that you have control over or power over other people’s lives. You also need to let go of the idea that you are responsible for other people’s lives. (Of course you are responsible for any minors in your care.)

When couples or individuals seek my services as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with addiction recovery and helps loved ones of addicts move into recovery from co-dependency, I sometimes offer this mantra:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Repeating this mantra regularly can help you to stay connected to what it is that you really want –  especially when you are feeling anxious and worrying about what is going to happen if you don’t step in to fix things and make sure everyone is happy,.

It will also help you identify whether your actions are truly coming from a place of loving and caring or whether they are informed by your need to manage your anxiety.

anxiety relief with psychotherapy  North Vancouver for co dependent behaviourSometimes it’s hard to differentiate whether you caught in your codependent place or acting from a place of love and caring. From the outside your behavior looks the same. If you’re confused, get out of your head and into your body.

The best barometer for identifying this difference is your body. An act of loving and caring will make your body feel open and relaxed. If that same behavior is however about managing your need for approval or trying to avoid conflict, your body will feel somewhat contracted or tense.

Remember that a lot of the worst-case scenarios that you’re trying to prevent are completely out of your control. You have no control over how your loved ones will respond to,  interpret, feel or think about something.

A common complaint couples share with me in my role  me as Burnaby relationship counsellor specializing in sex therapy and marriage counseling is a loss in libido. Usually these are long-term partners who are unhappy about the steady decline of passion and fire in their lovemaking. Often there is a higher desire partner and a lower desire partner and the self-diagnosis is a loss of libido.

North Vancouver couples counselling helps revive libidoWhile lack of sleep, thyroid health, your overall good health and hormonal changes can all be a valid underlying cause for a decreased sex drive, I have found that 80% of my clients have no medical condition that explains what has been happening.

When lack of desire becomes a concern in a relationship, I like to point out that intimacy and lovemaking do not start with desire but with willingness. Which leads us to the real question, have you lost your desire or your willingness to say yes when your partner tries to initiate intimacy. (read my blog post “Are you just not “into him” that much anymore” discussing low libido in women at my counselling for women site www.goddessrevealed.ca)

Imagine these two scenarios:

  1. Your partner initiates sex or intimacy. Clearly he or she is experiencing some sexual desire. While you are not in that same place at this moment, you are willing to explore the idea together and potentially raise your desire. You let your partner know that you are willing (even if that means making a request to meet in a little while, allow you to finish a task at hand, have a shower ecc). This can lead to delightful and perhaps longer than usual foreplay which most often will create some desire.
  2. Your partner extends an invitation / lets you know that he or she is feeling sexual. You are not only NOT experiencing any desire in that moment but you don’t feel like going there. The reason you don’t have any willingness is because, consciously or unconsciously, you are still upset about not feeling heard or seen in some previous arguments. Perhaps you feel like you never get any help around the house or you have felt let down or disappointed because you’re partner doesn’t seem to listen to you.

Burnaby Marriage Therapy can help you with sex and intimacy issuesHere are some questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your partner:

  • Are you being the partner you aspire to be?
  • What will it take to close the gap between how you are and how you want to be?
  • What is so distressing to your partner about you/your interaction? “Do you know what bothers your partner about you?”
  • When things go wrong, do you take an active role in repairing distress?

Creating desire and willingness happens long before you get to the bedroom. Finding answers and sharing your thoughts to the questions above could be a pivotal point in creating a deeper intimate connection with your partner.

Pre-marital counselling or pre marriage therapy is becoming more and more popular, not only with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. When couples come to see me because they need help resolving conflicts they have become gridlocked on, in our first session I also ask “How is your sex life?”. Usually the answer is: “It hasn’t been great for a while”.

While fatigue and lack of time are the two top “sex life wreckers” in relationship, what impacts intimacy and passion the most is willingness or the lack thereof. Before desire comes willingness. And if over a period of time, you have started to harbor resentment, disappointment and hurt because you don’t feel heard, seen or understood by your partner, your heart is slowly going to become less open. It takes an open heart to create an intimate connection. And an open heart requires emotional safety.

Usually when you are in the throes of wedding prep you are in the honeymoon phase of your relationship. Often you can’t even imagine that you could feel less attracted or have less desire for your beloved at some point in the future.

Pre marital counselling North vancouver can help with emotional baggageBut we all bring our baggage with us and certain parts of our personality or triggers don’t show up until we are well into having to navigate all the stresses of daily life.

In my pre marriage courses or pre-marital therapy sessions you will not only identify what potential triggers you are bringing into the relationship, but I will help you fine tune your boundaries and how you communicate so you are able to truly hear each other without becoming defensive or getting caught up in content.

Have you ever felt frustrated because you are trying to let you partner know that something is bothering you, but you end up “fighting” about who is right or wrong? Often in the end one or both of you will walk away feeling defeated or disappointed because somehow s/he doesn’t seem to get it. When this happens over and over again…you have an issue and it doesn’t get resolved…even if the issue is not really that big, you start to create a story in your head about how your partner doesn’t care or how your needs don’t  seem to matter.

When couples reach this point, they often choose to see a couple’s counsellor. But why risk the possibility of ending up in this place on day when it is preventable?

Burnaby couples counselling before marriage

 

Why not do everything you can to ensure that your marriage will be as beautiful and special as you are planning your wedding to be? Couple’s counseling before marriage offers you an opportunity to create a strong and resilient life of shared meanings and goals together.

 

or How to stop escalating relationship conflicts.

Burnaby marriage therapist can help you resolve conflictWhen couples contact me for relationship counselling and marriage therapy, I invite them to fill out a personal info form where they are asked to name their short and long term goals for couple’s counselling.

80% of couples that seek out my services as a marriage and family therapist want to change how they communicate. More specifically they want to change how they handle conflict. 

I’m sure you’ve had an argument or a fight or two with your lover / spouse. If you think back for a moment, can you identify the difference between the arguments that ended well and those went “sideways”? What happened in those discussions where you got stuck, didn’t reach a positive resolution and left feeling angry and misunderstood?

I am imagining that you’re answers all point to one or both of you having reached a point where you felt overwhelmed, out of control, triggered, attacked, or ungrounded. In fact you probably felt like Mr. Duffy in James Joyce’s novel “The Dubliners.” To quote: “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

Typically when we start to get overwhelmed or “flooded” with emotions, our whole system is in stress mode. This means that your brain is pouring out stress hormones, which in turn affect your breathing and your heart rate… and all of this affects your ability to think clearly, stay focused and connected to your boundary. You can literally be beside yourself. Because your body has entered something similar to fight or flight mode, you also tend to forget that the person who is facing you is actually not your enemy…but someone who you love deeply and who loves you.

Grow the love you have with North Vancouver relationship therapistWhat would happen if in the moments of your most heated discussions, you were able to remember the goodness and beauty of your partner? Would you be able to step into a place of compassion and desire to understand what is going on for them? Would you make different assumptions and interpretations and consequently respond more calmly and less defensively? Would you simply be more willing and open for loving communication?

In order to return to a heart space, one of you needs to call for a time out or break when things get too heated. Ideally you will cultivate a sense of awareness of your mind and body in order to be able to quickly identify and catch yourself when you are getting flooded. Sometimes you may be too absorbed in the heat of the moment and it will be your partner who notices that you are flooded.

During this time out or break, you may choose to sit side by side or even stand side by side, leaning against each other. Focus Burnaby couples counselling uses mindfulness to help you resolve conflicton bringing your awareness back to your body. The first and most simple way of doing this is to connect to your breathing. 

  • Focus on breathing into your belly (this activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is calming) and slow down. Relax your jaw, breathe with your mouth open and gently concentrate on expanding the belly and releasing tension on the exhale.
  • Next find areas of muscle tension in your body, and first tense and then relax these muscle groups. Examine your face, particularly your forehead and jaw, then your neck, shoulders, arms and back.
  • Make the relaxed muscle groups feel heavy and warm by imagining that your arms for example feel pleasantly heavy and warm.
  • Finally bring a soothing and loving image to your mind. Focus on feeling calm and safe. Now think about a positive loving memory that involves your partner. Allow your mind to move from one positive image to the next. Allow yourself to remember how you feel when you have felt truly loved by your spouse.

Give yourself about 15 – 20 minutes to shift into this calm and grounded state. If you have a difficult time remembering anything positive or loving about your partner, the two of you may need to sit down and talk about why you love each other. Sometimes couples counseling can help work thru old conflicts and hurts so you are able to  reconnect to why you are choosing to spend your life with this person.

 

They use different aliases: marriage wreckers, divorce predictors, love erasers…but they all do the same thing. They are the termites that slowly eat away at your marriage.

I recently wrote an article on my website www.goddessrevealed.ca which focuses on counselling for anxiety and stress relief. The post is called “How to raise your Happiness Quotient” and discusses the effects of negativity on the brain as well as practical steps for moving from no to YES.

Negativity has not only a marked effect on the brain.

When the ratio between your positive and negative messages and expressions in relationship falls below 3:1 you are slowly erasing the love between you.

John Gottman ( The Gottman Method) researched communication between couples in the love lab for over 15 years and  identified 4 particularly harmful habits or divorce predictors that put couples at risk.

He has called them the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. I like to call them the love erasers. When couples come to see me for sex and marriage therapy, one of our first areas of focus is the elimination of love erasers.

Burnaby Couples counsellor can help you prevent divorceDoes your partner sometimes say things that you have heard a thousand times... things you find boring or have judgment about…so as s/he speaks you roll your eyes. Or perhaps you have gotten into the habit of mimicking your partner, repeating things they said in a way that is sarcastic or diminishing. Some couples get into the unfortunate habit of name calling in moments of heated anger. All these actions fall into the category of contempt. How do you feel if your partner treats you with contempt? Most likely you feel hurt, shamed, angry …certainly not loved or emotionally safe.

Contempt is love eraser number one.

Some couples get so frustrated when they get stuck in communication or they feel so hurt and misunderstood that they North Vancouver Marriage therapy can save your marriage from divorcestop talking. Most of the time however it is one partner in particular who adopts this negative habit. S/he will simply not answer when addressed after a fight or disagreement. S/he will treat the other partner as if they were invisible and clearly inaudible. This “silent treatment” can sometimes go on for days. I once worked with a couple where the wife was extremely jealous. Whenever she thought that her husband had behaved “inappropriately” she would give him the silent treatment or cold shoulder. Sometimes he hadn’t actually done anything but someone had smiled at him and perhaps he had smiled back. Often he wouldn’t know what was going on, except that his wife was treating him like air.
He – like anyone else who has ever been the recipient of this kind of behavior felt frustrated, powerless and hurt. The lack of willingness to communicate slowly erodes trust and emotional safety.

This behavior is also called “stonewalling” and is love eraser number two

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Burnaby relationship therapist and marriage counsellor helps you stop arguingSometimes when I listen to spouses discuss an area that causes distress during a marriage counselling session, I don’t hear about a specific behavior. Instead I get a very critical description of the husband or wife. “She is just lazy.” “He is so selfish”, “She is so mean-spirited, she always throws me under the bus with her parents.” When you criticize your partner instead of the specific behavior, your partner tends to feel angry, ashamed or embarrassed, and frustrated. S/he will most likely not feel particularly motivated to change the behavior that you are unhappy with.

Criticism and complaining is love eraser number three

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Most often criticism leads directly to love eraser number four. Defensiveness. Instead of being able to hear what you are unhappy about, your spouse either comes up with a big explanation about how this is not his or her fault or s/he retaliates but telling you that this is really all your fault. If you didn’t do “A”, then they wouldn’t have to do “B.”

Love eraser number four – defensiveness is probably the most challenging negative habit to eradicate

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You can develop a zero tolerance for contempt and stonewalling. You can practice how you approach your partner about issues that impact you negatively. But you have to develop strong boundaries to be able to simply hear your partner out while trying to understand what is going on for them, rather than launching into defensiveness.

I invite you to stop for a moment and consider all the conversations you and your partner or even you and your children have in the course of a day or a week. What would you say is the ratio between positive and “negative” interactions? For every criticism or complaint, do you share at least 3 or 4 appreciations? Do you take the time to hug, touch and connect with each other in a loving a positive way consistently? Or does life sometimes get too busy, so that all that is left is a long list of frustrations?

If the love erasers are at work in your marriage or family, I urge you to make a pact with your spouse and children. Eliminate the love erasers from your relationships and replace them with mindful, loving communication. Infuse your connections with positivity. Find a balance between discussing the challenges and celebrating the good things in your lives together.